Sunday, January 19, 2014

Today Outside Your

    Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occured to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.

- William E. Stafford, "A Message from the Wanderer"
* * *

I am always killed by poetry. The good shit, anyway.

* * *
Prisoners, listen; you have relatives outside, people unknown to you, but of the same blood and condition, people who were once as you are now and they are pulling for you to figure it out. The door is open, pal. All you have to do is walk through. You have followed when you should have found your own path and so ceded your autonomy to the structures that buffet you from cradle to grave: family, education, marriage, career, decline and death. Your debts and worry grow and you chain yourself all the tighter to what is leaching the life from your bones. This is not what your life was made for, but what you have allowed to happen because you believed the stories that if you work hard and kept the sabbath someday you'll own a home as big as a house. You never hear another sort of story, the kind told by wanderers. The stories about heroes that only exist where they are not, of forms in the grass, bent hinges and walking sticks: the peripheral vision of intuition and knowing your name.

If I am of any service in this world let it be to do this.

* * *

There is a trite truism in wide circulation: "Love what you do. Do what you love."  Seems an utterly harmless aphorism, yet it I tell you it is another prison. Love what you do and do what you love is a slant on Campbell's "Follow your bliss," which is always used as a cop out for narcissism (these sorts of mis-readings happen because those spouting off haven't read the book and only glommed onto the easiest meme to justify their poor behavior). Campbell used that phrase to describe a life fully awake to the experience of being alive, of using its capacities to see what could done with the privilege of being alive. The LWYD mantra is lazy, indolent and holds yet another trap for you to fall into.  Here's why: the vast majority of the planet is not working at work they love, but rather at work they must do (and poorly paid) in order to eat and shelter themselves. The trap is sprung when it conflates who you are with what you do to eat. Another door is locked and you are made to feel a failure for working to eat instead of eating your bliss.

Fuck that.

Listen: Raymond Carver worked as a janitor in a hospital while he wrote his short stories and poems, Wallace Stevens sold insurance, Jimmy Page wrote jingles. But set aside the ghetto of the arts. Who you are is not what do for money. Who you are is what you do in spite of money - whether you have it or not. The prison is made when you don't question the basic set up: that who you are is exactly the same as what you do to sustain you physical, present self.

Workers are paid shit so the wealthy can get the gout. Fuck them fat fucks. Do what you must then carve time to do your bidding. Be subversive by doing what the rich will never understand: give, sacrifice and then give again. You unfuck your life not by giving a rat's hairy ass about the externals, but by living from the inside out, by aligning your thoughts with your actions and knowing that even if you die a bit each day from the inequitable nature of most employment, as long as you are living for a cause greater than yourself - your kids, the environment, social justice, the one you love, your God - you are free, outside the structures and controls of unthinking life and that makes you a subversive.

Welcome, so glad you're here.

Just remember your name and remind others to do the same. If you get lost or can't make it all the way, we'll still be here and there will come a time when all you have said and done will come right. Just look for the signs in the grass.

* * *



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